Barbed Wire Baseball

Barbed Wire Baseball, written by Marissa Moss and illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, is nominated for the 2014-15 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.

Barbed Wire Baseball is a welcome addition in public, school, and classroom libraries, and it highlights a shameful, often overlooked period in American history–the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Kenichi “Zeni” Zenimura loved baseball. He played professionally in the U.S., and he went a long way to making the sport popular in his native Japan. He even played with baseball legends like Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, however, Zeni’s baseball dreams would take a turn.

Zeni, his family, and over 100,000 Japanese Americans were sent to live in internment camps. These loyal Americans had done nothing wrong. They were rounded up solely because of their ancestry. The internment camps were little more than prisons, often surrounded by barbed wire.

Zeni was sent to the Gila River War Relocation Center in Arizona, and, though he was far from home and in a horrible situation, he did not let that keep him from the sport he loved so much. Along with his sons and friends at the camp, Zeni built a baseball field. This field not only allowed them to play baseball, but it also provided some measure of hope that their dreams could still come true. Even in the toughest of circumstances, happiness can be found.

Barbed Wire Baseball could be a great jumping off point for further research about World War II and the despicable way the U.S. treated loyal Americans. (Many readers will likely make connections between internment camps and concentration camps.) An afterword and bibliography provide more information about the life of Zeni Zenimura and the internment of Japanese Americans.

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